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Faruk now too critical of Tifa

Daily Star | Friday, February 13, 2009

Faruk now too critical of Tifa

Staff Correspondent

Commerce Minister Faruk Khan yesterday said the proposed latest draft of Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (Tifa) would be detrimental to Bangladesh’s interests.

“The draft of TIFA placed by the USTR (US Trade Representative) in April last year will cause troubles for Bangladesh in areas like intellectual property rights and duty-free export of our goods,” Khan told a meeting of the Economic Reporters’ Forum (ERF) at the National Press Club.

The US’s stringent restrictions on environment and labour standard issues in the draft would harm Bangladesh, added the minister.

As a least developed country (LDC) Bangladesh is exempted from the obligation of intellectual property rights till 2013. WTO also waived LDCs from obtaining patent for pharmaceuticals products until 2016.

“We will lose these advantages if we go for the Tifa agreement on the current draft proposal,” the minister categorically said.

The US has been pushing Bangladesh since 2002 to sign a bilateral Tifa. There were three rounds of talks between 2003 and 2005 when the US prepared a draft. But there has been no breakthrough in the deal so far.

“The then BNP government declined to sign the deal as the US tagged the issues of corruption and bribery with it,” Khan told reporters.

Again the US in April 2008 put forward the proposal afresh, which the commerce minister said is detrimental to interests of Bangladesh.

“We will start a fresh negotiation,” Khan said adding, “I am happy that the US did not forward the deal this time for signing.”

It was a hype that the US and Bangladesh would sign Tifa during an official visit of US Assistant Foreign Secretary Richard Boucher last week.

Economic reporters also grilled Faruk Khan about prices of essentials and two bilateral deals penned with India last week and on the much talked about issue of the transit.

“The trade deal which we renewed last week will not allow India transit through Bangladesh. There must be more talks and deals,” the minister asserted.

He said the government is examining the transit issue involving experts to see if Bangladesh earns benefits from the transit deal or not.

“I requested the opposition not to capitalise upon the issue of transit to gain political benefit,” he added.

He said the trade deal was signed in 1980 by the then government led by late president Ziaur Rahman. Begum Khaleda Zia-led government renewed it in March 2006.

On curbing prices of essentials the minister said a committee is working to finalise a report on how to strengthen the state-run Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB).

“The committee is likely to submit the report this month and accordingly the government will set its course of actions,” Khan said adding, “I hope the businesses will perform its due responsibility. I asked them not to be profiteering.”

The minister said the government had planned to set up four markets on the outskirts of the capital to help growers sell their goods at a reasonable price.

He also informed that Bangladesh Foreign Trade Institute and the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry would conduct research works on the market situation.

ERF president Nazmul Ahsan chaired the discussion.

 source: Daily Star